Saturday, April 29, 2017

#WritersLife: Measuring Your Writing Progress

#WritersLife - The Blonde Writer

#WritersLife, where I talk writing in real life.

Measuring your writing progress is not always an easy--or a motivating--thing to do. If you determine a measurement and then fall short, you risk putting down your self-esteem or slowing your momentum, and that could jeopardize the entire project. Not only that, but by choosing to by-pass this potential dilemma by not setting goals, you risk putting off the writing entirely until you have more time, which never magically appears like the time set aside for certain tasks.

If your writing is important to you, then creating goals is necessary to prioritize it. There are multiple ways to measure your writing progress; it's a matter of trial and error to see which ones best match your personality and writing style.

Word Counts and Page Counts

Counting words and pages is the most common practice for all writers. A popular writing program, NaNoWriMo, encourages writers to get 50,000 words on paper in November and then pushes writers a little further to write what they can in April. This is a great tangible way for writers, especially new writers, to see their progress before their eyes immediately. 

For me, this measurement works best when I have a novel in mind and know what the outline is to follow. I can see the physical words on paper as they are in my mind. At my peak, I was averaging 3,000 words a day and was kicking my revision's booty. However, if you're a slow writer, this may not be the best measurement for you.

Hours and Sessions

Measuring by set parameters is a great way for all writers to dedicate a chunk of time to their craft. In Stephen King's On Writing, he talks about getting up first thing in the morning and writing until noon. For some of you, doing this kind of thing after your shift at work would be the same idea: get home at 5:30, spend some time with your family, and then write until 7:30 (or whenever dinner is).

This can be a stronger motivator for writers who spend a little more time thinking through their first draft. Putting in an hour of work can get me 2,000 words during a first draft; for another writer, an hour of work may be closer to 400 words. However, dedicating an hour everyday will generate content for you to revise, and that constant motivation will keep your writing alive.

If you already know you can't set aside a daily time to write, give yourself a weekly session count to follow. If you find extra time on Tuesday to have two half-hour sessions, do it, and then you won't feel behind if you didn't write on Sunday and Monday. If you write by an outline, you can even measure your progress by your story's progression.

Scenes or Development

Measuring based on the story progress is definitely for those who are detail-oriented or faithfully following a plot outline. You can write one major scene a day or write until a change occurs in a character or the setting. Really, this one probably has the most flexibility, so if you're more of a chaotic thinker (and I envy people like that when I feel paralyzed because my planner isn't updated), you may find the most motivation with this method.

When I first started writing, I wrote a chapter a day with a minimum of 7 pages per chapter. I don't often follow this mindset while drafting, but for my revision process, I edit per scene so I can try to treat each individual scene like its own story. I'll admit that I am terrible at this because I'm super impatient and want to finish the revisions as fast as possible, but it does help me catch all the ways my writing can be improved.

While planned and chaotic thinkers may work with these physical measurements, spiritual thinkers may benefit more by listening to their inner muse.

Personal Satisfication

As Sarah from Sarah's Day says, "Listen to your body;" listen to that inner muse or inner writer and understand your personal satisfaction level. One day, 500 words is what makes you happy. The next day, 2,000 words is when you finally feel ready to stop. I had a handful of days last year where I wrote 5,000 words in a day because my inspiration for the story was so fresh. These fluctuations are normal.

I repeat: These fluctuations are normal.

Our desires fluctuate. Our inspiration fluctuates. Our work ethic fluctuates (I'm a prime example of this one). However, we should not compromise our writing goals for these inner changes. Even when you don't feel like writing, try brainstorming, outlining, or revising. Always put effort into your work to keep your mind fresh on the subject.

Whatever way you measure your writing, it's important to track continual progress. And don't think of measuring as a way of measuring your worth as a serious writer. The purpose of measuring your progress is to keep you going in any small way you need. Your worth as a writer is measured by your faith in yourself and nothing more.

So long as you always end the day feeling satisfied with everything you did and attempted to do, you've succeeded in meeting not just your writing goals, but your life goals.


Other posts you may like:

No comments:

Post a Comment